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Walmart is adding Symbotic robots to warehouses across the country – TechCrunch

The push behind the massive influx of funding for warehouse robotics is largely driven by one entity: Amazon. There are of course other factors driving the industry, including the pandemic, labor shortages and supply chain constraints, but Amazon is still looming in the corner, forcing companies adopt creative and innovative ways to stay competitive. Even a force of nature like Walmart is not immune.

While Amazon has a head start in this department, dating back to its purchase of Kiva Systems in 2012, Walmart has worked aggressively on automation in recent years — though its own track record has been a bit spotty, notably in the case of Bossa Nova. , which has gone quiet since the company discontinued its shelf-scanning systems.

Massachusetts-based Symbotic was much luckier. Late last year, the company announced plans to go public via SPAC, largely building on the momentum of an ongoing deal with Walmart that brought its warehouse robotics to 25 of mega-retailer fulfillment/distribution centers. Today, the pair announced an extension to the deal that will install Symbotic systems in all of Walmart’s U.S. fulfillment centers, 42 in all.

While Walmart clearly has faith in the systems, it’s not an overnight deal. Symbotic indicates that the deployment of the modernization will take more than 8 years. It’s safe to say that the retail and robotics landscapes are on track to be wildly different in just under a decade.

“The need for precision and speed in the supply chain has never been more visible, and we believe the time is right to move even faster by adapting Symbotic’s technology across our entire network. of regional fulfillment centers,” Walmart SVP said in a statement. . “Using high-speed robotics and intelligent software to organize and optimize inventory, the Symbotic system helps us deliver products to our customers quickly and seamlessly by revolutionizing the way we receive and distribute products to stores. “

Symbotic’s system is multifaceted, similar in this respect to companies like Berkshire Grey. It includes a combination of mobile Kiva-like robots to move inventory and robotic arms that can pick up, place and depalletize, using a variety of different attachments.

According to Symbotic, the SPAC – which was originally planned for some time in the first half – is still on pace. Although given the state of the market, it might make sense to delay the IPO a bit. Walmart, meanwhile, has partnered with a number of different robotics companies, including GreyOrange, which powers the company’s Canadian subsidiary.

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